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Ethical dilemmas involving utilitarian ethics

One of the most widely discussed ethical dilemmas involving utilitarian ethics is the trolley problem, a problem researched and discussed so widely that people call this “trolleyology.” View The Trolley Problem video for a basic introduction to this problem.

For the first week of this module, discuss why you think most people say they are willing to change the track even if it results in killing one person because it will save more lives on balance. But more importantly, explain why when the dilemma is changed slightly so you have to actually push someone over the tracks to stop the train most people say this would be wrong even though lives would be saved. Are their times when virtues outweigh utilitarian ethics? Or is this just emotions outweighing the cold logic of utilitarianism? Apply the concepts of virtue ethics and utilitarian ethics to this dilemma.

For the second week of the module, view this slightly more detailed video on the trolley problem: Would You Sacrifice One Person to Save Five? Pay special attention to the discussion about how technology such as self-driving cars or drones may become programmed to follow a utilitarian approach—for example, a self-driving car may have to swerve in a direction that causes the minimum loss of lives in some extreme situations. Unlike humans, computers don’t have emotions and don’t strive to be virtuous. How do you think self-driving cars, drones, or similar technologies should be programmed when it comes to ethical dilemmas?


For your initial answer, shoot for 200-250 words and for the follow up responses to your classmates shoot for 100-150 words.

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